(Based on the 7/12/02 Paul Lieberman piece in the LA Times, "When Life Imitates a B-Movie")
For a decade, Julius R. Nasso produced Steven Seagal films that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. Seagal bought the house next to Nasso's mansion on Staten Island. They were close friends. They often dressed alike, all in black.
Prosecutors say that Nasso is an associate of the Gambino crime family who plotted with a local Mafia captain how to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Steven Seagal.
Nasso became intrigued by Hollywood in 1980, when Italian director Sergio Leone came to Brooklyn to film the mob saga "Once Upon a Time in America." Nasso got a job as a translator and gofer for the director. Nasso's parents emigrated from Italy when he was 3. He spoke Italian and English.
Nasso moved to LA and met Steven Seagal. At the time, Steven was married to actress Kelly LeBrock. His agent was Michael Ovitz. Steven made his screen debut, at age 37, in Above the Law. It grossed almost three times its $7 million budget.
Julius served as an unpaid intern on Seagal's next few movies. Then the two went into business together wtih Seagal Nasso Productions.
Nasso received his first credit (associate producer) on Seagal's third movie, Marked for Death. He became executive producer of "Out for Justice," filmed in 1990 in Brooklyn.
A New York public relations man began pitching Nasso as "a Horatio Alger character." Three newspapers profiled him. One story said he had two doctorates. Nasso counts a 1979 testimonial dinner at Fordham University as the equivalent of an honorary degree and bases his other on a membership certificate from the Connecticut Pharmaceutical Assn.
Another story said his early jobs included pouring concrete for an "influential uncle." The profile did not mention how Nasso's uncle came up at a 1980s mob trial.
When Spy magazine questioned Nasso's mob ties, Seagal filed a suit. He claimed false and defamatory statements, such as that he was "friends with individuals who have ties to the 'Mafia.' " Steven later dropped the suit.
Many actors have flaunted their ties with the Mob, from George Raft who grew up with the Mob in NYC, to James Caan, who got to know the Mafia researching his role as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather.
Studio executives told the LA Times that they viewed Nasso more as a talent manager of Seagal than as a typical producer.
After his divorce, Seagal fell under the influence of an obscure Tibetan Buddhist sect. In 1997, a recognized Tibetan Buddhist leader named Steven a "tulku," a reincarnation "of the [17th century] treasure revealer Chungdrag Dorje."
Seagal and Nasso went their separate ways soon after.
Nasso talked to the LA Times in June, 2002 about his life and accomplishments in Hollywood. Julius had a 1991 lunch at Le Cirque with Terry Semel, then chief executive of Warner Bros.; went with Donald Trump to the 1993 opening of the studio's store in Manhattan; went with Seagal to David Letterman's show to promote "On Deadly Ground."
Nasso showed proclamations praising him for bringing filming to local streets, one declaring "Julius Nasso Day" on Staten Island. He produces his Directors Guild card.
Sources: 7/12/02 Paul Lieberman piece in the LA Times, "When Life Imitates a B-Movie"